5 tips on photographing the view from The Shard
Built to a design by Renzo Piano and inaugurated in July 2012, the Shard is Europe’s highest skyscraper. It includes a viewing gallery on floors 69-72, with the uppermost of them being open to the elements. offering commanding views across London, this is a must for any photographer visiting the city. Based on my visit, below my photos are five tips to help you make the most of yours.
1. Check the weather forecast before you book
A clear, dry evening is best but some cloud will nevertheless make the sky more interesting. I thought I had struck lucky but as I emerged at the top, the London skyline was completely obscured by a snow shower. The view was stunning as it gradually emerged but, unfortunately for me, the snow also left rain drops on the exterior of the glass.
2. Choose the right time of day
For best results, shoot here before, during and after sunset. You get the best of all worlds: the last of the afternoon sun for some daylight shots then the magical transformation as all of the city lights come on whilst the light fades and, finally, the lights against the inky night sky.
3. Get to the base of the skyscraper in good time.
An hour before sunset is ideal; it takes a few minutes and two lift rides to get to the top – you will then have a few minutes to get out your camera and take a few daylight shots before the light fades. I went up in mid-March this year and started my ascent at 5.30pm, half an hour before sunset at 6pm: I wish I had gone up at 5pm. Tickets are timed and you won’t usually be allowed up early. I stayed until about 7pm in temperatures that hovered around freezing point.
4. Take a small tripod
This is clearly a must for long-exposure dusk and night photography. Note, however, that large bags or items are not allowed, so you are better off bringing a small model that will collapse to a compact size and be unobtrusive to other visitors; I took most of my photos crouching down behind a mini tripod, which enabled me to get my lens close to the glass.
5. Bring a piece of dark cloth to act as a secondary lens hood.
Photographing behind glass in an illuminated observation gallery means that you will suffer from reflections caused by the ambient lighting . I improvised with the nylon case for my travel tripod; it reduced stray lighting but didn’t eliminate it altogether. A polarising filter probably wouldn’t have been very effective, given the darkness into which I was shooting.
Shoot Raw images, not JPGs. Straight out-of-camera, your images will have an orange colour cast because of all the street lights. For best results, reduce the colour temperature of your night-time images to give them a much cleaner look. I found 3,300K to be the sweet spot for my images.
Buy your ticket online in advance; I got mine a couple of days in advance to secure my preferred time. Turn up and ride tickets from the kiosk were about £100; I didn’t see anybody buying at that price!
The View from the Shard is situated next to London Bridge Station on the South Bank. On leaving the station concourse, climb the mound on which the Shard is built, then take a flight of stairs down to the visitor centre. Its entrance is separate from the main entrance and lifts to office and apartment floors. Opening times are as advertised by The View from the Shard.
A final thought
Perhaps one of the best things about View from the Shard is that, to echo Guy de Maupassant speaking about the Eiffel Tower over a century ago, it is the one place in London from which you can’t see the Shard itself. It is a real pity that it and all the other tower blocks in the City of London had not been relegated at least a couple of miles away from St. Paul’s Cathedral, the dome of which, until just 50 years ago, rightly dominated the skyline.